Monday, May 28, 2012

cards 9-12 in the Etteilla tradition

For card 9, here are: the 1910 Etteilla I from; Sumada's Etteilla II, pre-1890,; and De La Rue Etteilla III, 1890-1917,

I unfortunately do not have Etteilla’s own comments on the Justice card, presumably in Cahier 2 (at least he says in the “days of creation” section that he is also going to talk about the virtues). If someone has these pages (in French, I assume), I’d love to see them. All I have is the engraving that appeared as the frontispiece to Cahier 1, the original for the card, which I put in the middle below.

The Etteilla differs from the Marseille image (at right, Conver 1761) mainly in the odd shapes. For one, there is the feather-like sword; it is also like the strange sticks that occur in various configurations in the suit of Batons (at left above, from Sumada's c. 1890 deck). Another odd feature is one side of the balance, with a ball instead of a tray. It is as though the material on one side were being weighed against a standard measure in the shape of a metal ball. It is perhaps relevant that the need for a standard measure was acutely felt among scientists at that time. Part of the impetus for the metric system was the desire to define measurements by reference to a standard, a desire that materialized in the 1790s as the "standard meter" on an iron bar kept in Paris ( But I have not read anything about the card to confirm or deny this hypothesis.

Now for the word lists. Again, words that are in either translation of Papus, and also in Orsini, are in regular type. Those in Papus only are in italics; and those in Orsini only in bold.
9. [La Justice.] JUSTICE —Equity, Probity, Honesty, Rightness, Right, [b]Uprightness, Rectitude[,b], Reason.—Tribunal. Administering [Executing] Justice. Thot, or the book of Thot.

Reversed: [Le Légiste.] JURIST. Legislation, Legislator.—Law, Decree, Code, Ordinance, Statutes, Precept, Commandment, Domination, Institution, Constitution, Temperament, Complexion, Natural law and moral law, religious law, Political laws, Natural Rights, Human Rights, Public Law [or right, Droit], Civil Law [or Rights, Droit], Military Law [Droit de la guerre, i.e. rights of war]. The Jurist is under the immediate influence of this hieroglyph.
Orsini's commentary on the card, c. 1838, begins by referring us to a long footnote at the bottom of the page; the italics are in the original.
(*)Justice, said the Sages, signifies Equity, but this word is only a sound; for it not to be arbitrary, but on the contrary, fixed, we must give a true idea of all that this harmonious sound contains, to analyze it, or otherwise man will pronounce Justice and Equity a hundred thousand times, and he will not be the less unjust.

Justice comprises the natural positive rights of men; the rights of the fathers of families; of the sovereign, of the masters, and finally of superiors over inferiors.

It comprises the right of giving recompense, of commuting the punishment of crimes, proportionally to their nature, following the intention [volunte], or the action, considering the knowledge, or ignorance of the guilty; this is called interpretation of the law.
I suspect that this disquisition on the nature of justice, while relevant and accurate, was not originally written for this book, as the subtleties of the third paragraph are not apparent either in the explication or on the card. That paragraph is more relevant to the standard Marseille image, in which Justice’s elbow might be leaning on one side of the balance, making the sides equal in weight when they aren’t. That might signify that there is more to justice than fitting the punishment to the harm done, or to the decree not followed: adjustments have to be made considering the person’s intent, knowledge, and other factors.

The main body of the c. 1838 is then as follows, with my explanatory comments in brackets:
King Solomon seated on his throne holds in his hands the attributes of justice.

This card announces to you that the lawsuit for which you have dispensed considerable sums will soon be judged in your favor, or that a quarrel that has estranged you from a relative or a powerful friend, will cease to be harmful to you.

If it is a woman for whim one consults, this tarot announces to her that the slanders spread on her account will be discovered very soon.

Near no. 28 [8 of Batons: Country Party/Internal Quarrels], whether upright or reversed, it warns of an ambush in which the consultant will be wounded [c. 1853: disgraced), if a man; if a woman, she will be grossly insulted [c. 1853: slandered].

If this tarot is found near no. 22 [King of Batons: Man of the Country/Good and Just Man], it announces dignities, titles of honor, if it is upright; but reversed, it predicts the loss of a source of income, or of a sum of money.

Reversed, this card is always a bad prediction, a sign of chicanery; lawyers [advocats] without cause [c. 1853: writers] will try to undermine your business; but if no. 71 [7 of Coins: Money] is found at the right or left, it signifies only minor trouble.
There is of course no “King Solomon” pictured. But he is the archetype. The explication is clearly related to the keywords: the consultant will get justice if the card comes upright, and otherwise there is trouble, of which lawyers might be a cause.

The c. 1865 follows the c. 1838 about the successful lawsuit, and advises that if reversed, the signification is different; but after 22 [Good and Just man], one need fear only slowness. If the consultant does not have a lawsuit, the tarot says that the esteem of honest men will be justly earned; but if reversed, unjust suspicions will be circulated on his account. Near no. 18 [Traitor] and 27 [9 of batons: Retard/Traverses, i.e. Delay/Crossings], however it comes, it assures him of “unanimous respect.” For a young person, it concludes, no. 9 predicts success.

I do not understand the prediction relating to 18 and 27. Perhaps it comes from these numbers’ being multiples of 9.

The c. 1910 Grimaud booklet says, like the ones before it, that the consultant will win his case and justice will be served, if the card comes upright. If it comes reversed, the c. 1910 warns of chicanery and advises getting a lawyer. There is a caution: “But the lawyer whom you consult in the morning will be less concerned with getting you out of trouble than with taking all he can from you.” The ambush mentioned in c. 1838, when no. 28 is near, will be in annoying debates, and consist, for a man, of blows from a stick, and for a woman, of a snub. With 22, it, like the c. 1838, predicts dignities and titles, but if reversed, one will take a job, some honor, or a little money.

The modern Grimaud has something different for the Upright card: “The person in whom you are interested is loyal and has integrity. You can put your full trust in this person.” Like the c. 1910, when reversed it advises contacting a lawyer, but without the c. 1910’s caution about self-serving ones. With 22, there are again honors if upright, or a promotion, and justice rendered to you; but if 22 is reversed, your job becomes insecure. This time, when 28 [rev., Internal disputes] is near-—but only if reversed--there will be “an exchange of blows” (“a fist-fight,” says the English translation). It adds that if 27 is near, justice will be rendered to you; but with 68 [10 of Coins: Game of chance] or 71 reversed [7 of Coins: rev., Inquietude, and in the explanation, money problems], do not attempt any business deals at the moment.

Again, as with the c. 1865, there is that odd prediction with 27 [here Delay/Misfortune].


For card 10, here are the 1910 Etteilla I from; Sumada's Etteilla II, pre-1890,; and his De La Rue Etteilla III, 1890-1917,

Here the Etteilla II is quite different from the Etteilla I. Instead of the Marseille-inspired image of an angel pouring liquid from one jar to another, we have her holding up a bridle in front of an elephant. The Etteila III removes the elephant but retains the bridle.

The symbolism here is all of a conventional nature. The only thing that the Etteilla I adds to the Marseille image is that she stands with one foot on a block and the other on a sphere. This is a convention that the Mantengna school used in 16th century Mantua, as seen below. I do not know its history after that.

In the Mantua drawing. As Edgar Wind analyzes the image (Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance p. 101 and fig. 53), the block and sphere illustrate the well-known motto "Festina Lente," i.e. "Hasten slowly." The saying came from Aristotle, who explained that before any momentous action, such as defeating one’s enemies, one should deliberate carefully, and then move quickly. Standing on a block hinders from moving; standing on a sphere, one cannot help but be in constant motion. It is Wisdom restraining a youth from chasing Opportunity.

In the Etteilla I image, the same figure stands on both solids. Possibly, it is again "Festina lente,"-do both, one with each foot, as in the motto. But more likely, in the context of the card, the combination is to suggest that the angel is neither fast nor slow, but in between: in other words, it is an image of moderation.

Along the bottom border of the Etteilla I card is a dark area suggestive of either rocks or a cliff. Such dark areas were commonly used in Renaissance art in scenes of mortal danger, as for example crucifixion scenes. It was also sometimes just decoration. Several of the PMB cards for the Sforzas mid-15th century Milan, show such lines, including Death and Temperance.

In the original Etteilla engraving, for the 1883-84 Cahiers(at left below, from Kaplan vol. 2 p. 399), the line looks more like one of vegetation: the jagged line parallels a similar line above which clearly is trees. In 1789 (center, from Decker et al plate 2-3), the lines have been smoothed out. It looks more like rocks. By 1826 (lower right. Kaplan vol. 2), the card has the name “Angel of the Apocalypse” written on the card and still looks like rocks. In the Etteilla II, it looks more like a cliff face, more apparent in the engraving (middle right, from the c. 1838 book) than in the colored-in version (top right). If the intention was to show a cliff face, that would be another symbol of the Apocalypse, against which Christian chastity and the sacrament of Holy Communion would be effective antidotes.

Regarding Etteilla’s imagery in general, Decker et al say the following:
Etteilla’s cards are really disconcerting. They offer pictures which do not conform to any known system of artistic standard. Their iconography has no equivalent in any of the widespread books of emblemata or symbols... Even the virtues are not classical at all, in spite of a rich range of representations. (Wicked Pack of Cards p. 94)
Etteilla does have a few obscure symbols, such as the ball in Justice’s scales. I presume that these obscurities derive from French Freemasonry or some other secret society whose members he wished to cultivate. But on the whole his imagery is fairly conventional.

The Etteilla II, instead of the two jugs, has a bridle and an elephant. The bridle is a standard symbol of temperance, i.e. restraint of the animal passions. In Corregio's "Allegory of Virtue," done for Isabella d'Este, Marchesa of Mantua, the bridle being held by Virtue is the symbol of Temperance. The serpent on her head stands for Prudence, the lionskin for Fortitude, and the sword for Justice. These last three attributes are used in the Etteilla I’s representations of those virtues.

The elephant was another conventional Christian symbol of chastity, in the sense of not overindulging. (For Roman Catholics, any sex not for procreation was overindulgence.) Here is St. Francis of Sales, in Introduction to the Devout Life, originally published 1609 in French it was extremely popular and still is very much in print:
The elephant is not only a huge beast, but the most dignified and most intelligent animal which lives on earth. I wish to tell you an instance of its excellence. It never changes its mate and loves tenderly the one it has chosen. However, it does not mate with it except every third year, and that for five days only, and so secretly that it is not seen doing the act. Nevertheless, it is seen on the sixth day on which, before anything else, it goes straight to the river. There it washes completely its whole body without any wish to return to the flock before it is purified. Are not these beautiful and chaste characteristics of such an animal an invitation to the married?” (Introduction to the Devout Life, ch. 39 par. 7), quoted at
The reason for “every third year” is that it was thought that the elephant had a gestation period of two years, and she always conceived; hence there would be no point in having sex until after then. The point, of course, is not accurate elephant biology but moral instruction to humans.

Long before this book, the elephant was already a symbol of chastity; there would have been many other sources from which Etteilla could have derived the symbol (see Some sources held that the elephant engaged in sex with its mate only once in its life. Also, the elephant was believed to have only one mortal enemy, the dragon, which would entangle its feet in its coils. In the medieval bestiaries, it was thus likened to Adam, and humanity in general; and when it succeeded in tramping the dragon to death, it was a symbol of Christ.

In the Etteilla III, the elephant has been replaced by a cup. I suspect that this is meant to evoke the communion cup and so is another symbol of Christ, our inspiration to the chaste life.

Now for the word lists associated with card 10. Again, words that are in either translation of Papus, and also in Orsini, are in regular type. Those in Papus only are in italics; and those in Orsini only in bold.
10. [La Tempérance.] TEMPERANCE-Moderation, Discretion, Continence, Abstinence, Patience, Calm, Sobriety, Frugality, Chastity, Soothing, Treating Carefully [Management], Compromise.-Respect [Accommodation], Regard, Consideration, Patching up, Reconciliation, Conciliation. Tempering of musical sounds.-Air Temperature. Climate.

Reversed. [Le Prêtre.] PRIEST. Minister, Performer of Sacrifices, Priesthood. Clergy. Church. Council. Synode. Religion. Sect, the querent is under the influence of this virtue.
Notice here the word “temperature.” So Sumada’s card with the keyword “Temperature” is not a total error.

Orsini’s commentary at the beginning, as with Justice, refers the reader to a long footnote:
(*) Temperance signifies or announces that one must be temperate in the habits relating to the subject indicated in the card, be they physical or moral, for the extremes, in one and the other case, are contrary to human reason, also to the law that wise nature indicates for us, in its movements generally.

The Egyptians considered Temperance differently than we; they did not say that it had to do more directly with our carnal passions, than with all our vices; some lines in the book of Thoth, written because of this, will put us in a position to judge.

Temperance is a virtue which rules morality as much as physicality; it is called the precursor of the truth; without temperance, man bears all the other virtues in a period which degenerates them [i.e. without temperance, in time its lack will degenerate them]. Of a man who would be virtuous, intemperance makes him a maniac, an enthusiast, a dullard; thus for strong reason, how much temperance is necessary, generally, in all our vices, our blind passions, our faults, our weaknesses, our infirmities, and also in the brute things utilized in the physical life of man.

Temperance recommends chastity in virginity, marriage and widowhood; it oversees continence, clemency, modesty, study, affability (leniency, gentle, easy, tractable and thoughtful), misery, humility, moderation, simplicity;, it is the mistress of ambition, curiosity, luxury, play, drunkenness, self-esteem, and finally all the vices, as prudence warns of them, and strength surmounts them.
And now here is the main body of Orsini's c. 1838 commentary, with my explanatory comments in brackets.
This card s one of those that contain the most moral sense; it warns you that if you are not economical you will soon be ruined; it asks you to use sobriety in all things.

Near no. 45 [5 of Cups: Inheritance/Relatives] or no. 17 [Death], this card warns of an accident in consequence of bad preparation of food taken in a meal.

Near no. 25 [Page of Batons: Good stranger/News], it announces a missive that will give you news of a person that you love.

When this tarot is reversed, it predicts that in a little while a priest will be called to minister the marriage rites to you; but if found beside no. 16 [Illness], it will have to do with illness [c. 1853 adds: in that case, it is not said that it is a particular person; it could be a neighbor or a friend].

Near no. 29 [7 of batons: Preliminary talks/Indecision], it is a sign of cowardice.
I wonder whether the printer put 45, which is an auspicious card (except for the relative giving the inheritance), where he should have put 15, Illness.

The c. 1865 booklet mostly emulates the c. 1838’s homily and gives no pairings whatsoever.
Here is a tarot that has only one meaning, temperance. Whatever way it comes, upright or reversed, it tells you to be temperate in all things.

Temperance is a virtue that few people possess in all degrees; but one who can be master of his own person, arrives easily at some superiority.

The ancient interpreters of the tarot always regarded this card as one of the best omens, because it announces, for the one receiving the reading, the most brilliant results.

For a military person, it indicates great courage and great valor; for a young person, this tarot predicts a husband [mari] filled with the most beautiful qualities.
The c. 1910 Grimaud booklet, on the other hand, ignores the larger picture to focus on some very particular aspects of food.
The Angel of the Apocalypse announces nothing bad if it is upright; put water in your wine; avoid excess at the table; for you could be menaced by death as the consequence of an orgy.

Reversed, this card presages to you or someone touching you, an illness so grave that a priest will be called so as to prepare the dying one for the voyage to the other world.

Beside no. 47 [3 of Cups: Expedition/Success], this card announces that one will have a bad dinner at the house of a traitor; and perhaps one will eat a dish prepared in a badly tinplated casserole, which is very dangerous.

Beside no. 45, be fearful of eating mushrooms be careful also of mussels, if the angel of the Apocalypse is reversed.
Now I wonder if the printer has put 47 where 17 was meant (as well as 45 where 15 should be). 47 is an unqualifiedly good card. The problem with tinplating, I think, is that the meterial might have mercury in it if not made right.

The modern Grimaud writer seems to have read both the Orsini and the x. 1910, while adding a specific application to anger at the beginning:
This card means you will receive good advise and your fits of bad temper will be restrained.
R [right side up]: Practise self-denial and devotion and you will rejoice.
U: [upside down]: You will be able to convince your questioners. A man of religion wants to help you.
R: with 45 or 47: You risk being poisoned or ill through eating mushrooms and shellfish. With 25: the person you love gets in touch with you.
U: Near 16: Go to a doctor. He will be able to diagnose your trouble. Near 29: Do not shirk your responsibilities.
The priest, helping at marriage rites in c. 1838 and last rites in c. 1910, has here wisely not been given a specific assignment. And although the writer does repeat the questionable association to 45 and 47, at least we don’t have to worry about traitors or bad tinplating. The advice with 29 diplomatically emphasizes the action rather than the vice: it’s not that you’re a coward, it’s that it’s important not to shirk your responsibilities.

I wonder if the c. 1910 and the modern Grimaud might have been influenced by a card from another publisher, the Jeu de la Princesse, published by Watillaux, Paris 1880, following designs of c. 1843 (Decker et al, plate 7). Instead of “Priest” for the reversed, we have “Illness,” which is their major preoccupation, both upright and reversed. It would be of interest to see the booklet entry for this Princesse card.


I have become aware of what I think is some erroneous dating on my part regarding one of the booklets that accompany the Etteilla decks. I have been designating the earlier of two Etteilla I booklet as 1890, when in fact Cerulean in her posts dated it to “1900-1910 (1920?).” And dates a similar deck to 1910. So I should have called that booklet “c. 1910” for short. [Added June 25: I have now gone through and changed "1890" to "c. 1910" when referring to this booklet in past posts.]

To complicate matters, in re-reading Decker et al on these texts, I see where they point out that the booklet used by modern Grimaud is actually a reprint of a booklet done in 1826 for the deck published then with the colorful titles written on the images, i.e. the “Ange de l’Apocalypse” in script, which I showed in relation to card 10. Speaking of the 1826 booklet, they say:
Almost the whole section of the book devoted to the Egyptian Tarots is reprinted in an unattributed pamphlet entitled Grand Etteilla issued by Grimaud with the version of Grand Etteilla I that they have been producing for many years.
I assume that by the deck “they have been producing for many years,” Decker et al mean the 1969 version, the one with the original keywords, as opposed to the 1977 version, with many changed keywords. I assume they mean that 1969 deck even though it was no longer being produced when Wicked Pack of Cards (published 1996) was being written.

With that correction, I will start looking at card 11. Here are: the 1910 Etteilla I from; Sumada's Etteilla II, date unknown,; and La Rue Etteilla III, also date unknown,

The bear-like depiction of the lion might be related to that of the Noblet (below left) of c. 1650, as opposed to the style of e.g. Conver (below right), more popular in the 18th century.

However I am not aware of any previous decks, before Etteilla 1783-1785, that put the lion on the lady’s lap.

Now for the word lists. Again, words that are in either translation of Papus, and also in Orsini, are in regular type. Those in Papus only are in italics; and those in Orsini only in bold.
11. [La Force.] STRENGTH-Advantage by Strength. Moral Strength, Heroism, Magnanimity, Greatness of Soul, Courage.-Perseverance, Constancy, Ability, Power, Empire, Powerful Influence.-Mental or Moral Work, Patience, Resignation. Domination.

Reversed: [Le Souverain.] SOVEREIGN. Kingdom, Empire, State, Republic, Government, Administration, Reign, Despotism, Sovereignty, Authority, Commandment, Supreme Power, Absolute Power, Arbitrary Power, People, Nation, [t]Weakness, Imperfection, Quarrel [Discord].[/i] King. Emperor, General. Commander. Captain. Upper leader. Governor. Dominator. Driving Force. Regulator. Curator, Protector.
C, 1838 Orsini again starts the explanation off with a long footnote:
La Force gives magnificence, patience, perseverence; its acts are: piety, obedience toward God, in the moral and physical virtues. [i]Around men: to obey and observe human, national, and provincial laws, and those which extend from the sovereigns, the lords, the magistrates and also from just men, parents, superiors, equals, benefactors, friends, the poor, the infirm, the weak; finally, la Force ordains having regard and likewise obeying all that is virtuous, indeed do all that a vigorous man could by his personal strength, to secure this inestimable docility, [against that which] would trouble the celestial harmony put by the Creator among creatures; it especially requires submitting to the truth of divine and human laws; it dictates to us their recognition, esteem, and true regard. If human strength departs one minute from the spirit of divine strength, man puts himself at that moment between the arms of celestial vengeance, and the secular arms of human justice; to be docile, contains all the true spirit of strength.
Now here is the main body of Orsini's commentary, c. 1838, with my explanatory comments in brackets
A complete victory in all that you undertake will crown your labors; honours will come to you from all sides; you and yours will be filled with incalculable riches, especially if this card is found near no. 20 [Wheel of Fortune] or 72 [6 of Coins: Present/Ambition].

Reversed, this card is not as good an omen; it announces disgrace or the loss of protection from a great personage who had shown you much kindliness.

Near no. 50 [King of Swords: Man of the law/Vicious man], it predicts bad news.

Near no. 18 [Traitor], and always when reversed, it predicts loss of employment or of lucrative clientele.

If it is accompanied by no. 51 [Queen of Swords: Widow, Malicious woman], expect a present of small importance.

All the cartomancy sages considered this tarot, when presented in its natural sense, as one of the most fortunate. It has predicted to several warriors battles they won afterwards. Napoleon gave proof of this at the battle of Austerlitz, which he won, just as Empress Josephine had predicted to him before he left for the army. [This last sentence omitted from c. 1853, in French: Napoléon en fit l'épreuve à la bataille d'Austerlitz, qu'il gagna, ainsi que la lui avait prédit limpératrice Joséphine, avant qu'il partis pour l'armée.]
The Reversed meaning connects to the Sovereign, the reversed keyword, in that it is his good graces, or one in his circle, that one is out of.

It makes sense that this card, Strength, would be associated with court cards in swords, the military suit. But I do not understand where the prediction for the Queen of Swords comes from.

The c. 1865 modifies Orsini as follows:
The cartomancers have at all times given this card the most fortunate interpretation. If it occurs upright, it announces honors, riches, and all the most beautiful chances of success.

If this tarot comes reversed, it then can signify disgrace; but for that it is necessary that the tarot on the left or right be of bad omen. Accompanied by no. 51, it says that you will receive considerable presents or a magnificent inheritance.

For a lady or for a young person, it predicts great success at a ball or other gathering. For a warrior, promotion, success in battle. For a litigant, lawsuit won.
Again, the odd prediction of a present near 51, the Queen of Swords. But since 51 is Widowhood, the prediction of an inheritance is not out of place. It omits Orsini’s predictions when near 20, 72, 18, and 50, all of which made sense, as well as the idea that the disgrace comes from someone high up.

This interpretation actually fits the keywords on the Jeu de Princesse card (1880, but from designs dating to 1843, per Decker et al) better than it does the Force/Sovereign of the Etteilla III. (My source: Kaplan vol. 1 p. 143).

In the other booklet tradition, the card is called “David.” We have in c. 1910, (probably reprinted from 1826):
Seeing this favorable card, be sure that you will have a decided advantage over your enemies. If you search for honors, they are close to being poured on you.

But if David is reversed, you will incur disgrace from the monarch or of the personage whom you have to handle favors for you.

You will very certainly lose your employment, or your husband will be disgraced, if this card is near no. 18 [Traitor].

If it is near no. 51, you will receive a small present from the country, such as a hare or a pâté, provided David is upright; for if it is reversed you will find it necessary to make this small present to a man of the law.

This card of David is the first one that came up when Josephine read the cards for Emperor Napoleon before he left for the campaign where the battle of Austerlitz was won.
We see here again the anecdote about Napoleon. Also there is that strange prediction with 51, now doubled.

But here the relationship to the monarch is clear. Probably it is less clear in the other booklets because France no longer had a traditional monarch whose favor it was wise to have. The word “monarque” dates this text at least to pre-1870, when France lost its emperor, and probably to pre-1830, when the 2nd
Republic replaced Charles X with Louis-Philippe, the citizen-king ( But even in 1830 the traditional monarchy was a thing of the past, and being disgraced by the monarch was no longer the tragedy it once was.

The modern Grimaud’s keywords are Strength/Power. It has:
David means strength, success in most things, power, unless the influences surrounding him are bad.
R [right side up]: You will reveal your character and personality to your best advantage.
U [Upside down]: Do not be over-confident and do not abuse the power given to you.
R: Near 20 and 72: Complete happiness. Near 51(R) You will receive a splendid present. Near 51 (U): you should spend money for the benefit of others. Near 18, There is a risk of losing your job. Near 50: Bad news.
U: Near 51(R): Beware of a widow or a spinster. Near 51(U): Beware of an unkind person.
The author here combines Orsini with the earlier Grimaud, sometimes sensibly rephrasing them so that they become advice rather than predictions, and then not about others’ power but, in a more modern way, about one’s own. Again there is that strange prediction of a present near 51. Otherwise, his advice, when 11 Upside down is near 51, at least does relate to the upright and reversed meanings of 51.


 For card 12, here are the c. 1910 Etteilla I from; Sumada's Etteilla II, date unknown,; and La Rue Etteilla III, also date unknown,

Etteilla has of course taken de Gebelin's idea about the Hanged Man, that he should be seen as standing up and called Prudence. The rope then becomes a snake. [Inserted July 15: Here is what he says, in my translation of p. 21f of the 2nd Cahier:
[p. 21] The Cardmakers, seeing only one of the feet of Prudence posed on the ground, figured that it was a man hung by one foot, and what is worse, they discovered the vestiges of a serpent, which they took for a cord: from this false judgment, they established a beam across; and turning him upside down, they painted [p. 22] his hair in an equally horrifying position.

They saw, says M. De Gebelin, three Virtues; there had to be a fourth, and he demonstrates solidly, in the article on the Tarots inserted in his eighth volume of Primitive World, that Prudence was represented upright, posed on one foot, and the other in the intention of making a step; this is, we say simply, a man who having raised one foot in order to walk, considers prudently where he is going to place it, which supposes a great prudence, if this man is surrounded by dangerous reptiles, above all if they offend.
And of course with Temperance already at 11, with Prudence at 12 the other virtues have to have been nearby, i.e. at 9 and 10 rather than as 8 and 14, as the Marseille-style cardmakers erroneously have them (2nd Cahier p. 26).]

The serpent is of course a common association to Prudence, as old as Christ’s “Be ye wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” An example is the Minchiate Prudence card (at right below), Florence or Bologna early 18th century, which also has the mirror. The mirror has a long association with that virtue, probably in virtue of the saying “Know thyself.” An early example is Giotto, c. 1305 Padua (center below).

The mirror is also associated with vanity, a vice of know-it-alls as well as beauties. It thus has a negative as well as positive association wtih prudence. The serpent is similar, in that it represents temptation and foolish choices as well as wisdom or prudence.

Now for the word lists. Words that are in either translation of Papus, and also in Orsini, are in regular type. Those in Papus only are in italics; and those in Orsini only in bold.
12. [La Prudence.] PRUDENCE-Discretion, Wisdom, Circumspection, Restrained, Discernment, Foresight, Forecast, Reserve-Presentiment, Prediction, Prognostication, Divination, Prophet. Horoscope.

Reversed: [Le Peuple.] THE PEOPLE. Nation, Sovereign, Legislator, Body Politic, Population, Generation.
Like the other virtue cards, in the c. 1838 Orsini, Prudence gets a long footnote. It is written in a more complex style than the rest of the commentary, harder to translate, and so probably taken from a different source:
(*). Prudence; sometimes when this card is drawn, it is sage advice to proceed prudently; when it is recognized that prejudice and ignorance make a crime of our most praiseworthy acts, when the steps we take, to bring the unrefined man to a life that is honest and useful to society, are not felt-—that is the meaning of Prudence.

Prudence, in consultation, judgment command; joining memory, intelligence, knowledge, reason, foresight, circumspection, delivery.

She wants honest solitude, economy, work, activity, politics, etc. [Elle veut l’honnete solitude, l’economie, la travail, l’activite, la politique, etc.]
Here is the main body of Orsini's commentary, with my explanatory comments in brackets.
You are already comporting yourself wisely in difficult affairs; this card asks you to continue the same way in the future, because you will have many obstacles to surmount; the serpent that is always a sign of temptation predicts, if you are not careful, that you will be seduced by rascals, who will entrap you in bad steps.

Beside no. 64 [King of Coins: Brown-haired man, Vicious man], this card announces that you will have a dispute with a brown-haired man.

Reversed, this card predicts nothing so interesting: news of a foreign people in which you have some interest [d’un peuple etranger auquel vous porter quelque interet; Dusserre’s translation, I think incorrectly, has “of foreigners you care little about”] or of a country you would like to visit.

Inverted near no. 15 [Illness], it announces a popular assembly or a dangerous quarrel. Near no. 70 [Brown-haired girl/Usury], it means certain loss. Near no. 19 [Misery, Prison], captivity of short duration.
The serpent here could be either the one on the Etteilla I card, standing in the lady’s path, or the one on the Etteilla II, wrapped around her mirror. The theme of temptation is better expressed by the mirror.

The c. 1865 booklet, written for the Etteilla III card, says,
This card warns you to keep on your guard at all times, and the serpent characterizes the demon tempter.

But if this tarot occurs in company with nos 9 [Justice], 10 [Temperance], or 11 [Strength], it is a sign approving the manner in which you have conducted your affairs.

Beside no. 64 [King of Coins: Brown-haired man/vicious man], it warns of difficulties of little importance [de peu d’importance]; and this oracle is modified by the following card, if it is one of the four knights or the four valets, for, in that case, it announces that you can count on your friends to aid you on every occasion.
There are no inverted meanings here, and the dispute suggested by the nearby King of Coins is minimized.

In the other booklet tradition, the c. 1910, probably first published 1826, is quite colorful.
You have a sum of money or expectations badly placed. A cause not yet known will ruin your support. Watch your affairs with all the prudence imaginable.

If no 12 appears upside down, it announces sedition among the people or a particular quarrel in which you will avoid being thrown only with the greatest circumspection.

If this card is near no. 70, it announces very certainly some loss. A person for whom you have answered will disappear; and you will pay, which is indeed disagreeable.

No 12 reversed beside no 18 [Traitor] presages that someone will denounce you for political opinions. If no. 19 [Misery/Prison] is in the vicinity, expect a short sojourn in prison.
It is easy for me to imagine this set of predictions being written during the 1820s, when France was saddled with the unpopular Bourbon monarchy they had earlier waged a revolution to unseat. There was much turmoil and intrigue, culminating in the Second Republic of 1830. It was similar in Etteilla’s day. Hence Prudence and the People are opposites: one must be wary where the masses are concerned.

The modern Grimaud is at least as extreme. However the people are no longer a factor; the modern writer has even changed the Reversed keyword to “Popularityz” (Popularite).
Moses is the card for politicians and diplomats. It recommends prudence with words as well as in writing.
R [right side up]: Trust no one. Especially beware of people who make suggestions about placing your money.
U[upside down]: Avoid arguments, quarrels regarding prestige. Otherwise you will be the sufferer.
R: with 70 – Loss of money and authority.
U: With 18 [traitor], political denunciation. With 18 and 19 [Misery/Prison] near each other: Loss of freedom. With 15 [Illness, Aaron]: Vehement verbal confrontations. With 9, 10, and 11: Do not deviate from the path you have chosen. Near 64 [King of Coins: Businessman/Vicious] followed by a jack or a knight: Friends follow your policies.
This writer again combines the 1826 and the Orsini in his own fashion. Even without “People” on the card, it is a card of politics, in which it is important to put one’s pride aside, but not one’s judgment. In times of trouble, the virtues are what sustains one, those and one’s friends or supporters. “Trust no one” seems extreme; it perhaps applies first of all to fortune-tellers.


  1. Thanks for this wonderful article. I've been looking for anything on Etteilla but could hardly find. Someone has recommended me this website, I can't be more happy. :)

  2. Hi Michael :)

    Thank you for this article.

    Is the #12 Prudence card the equivalent of the more traditionally understood Lovers card, or is the #13 card, Marriage, the Etteilla equivalent of the Lovers?

    Or is there another altogether?

    I think it's interesting that these two cards are sequential. As though prudence and marriage is the advice or warning, for lovers.

    Thank you


  3. Hi Michael :)

    Thank you for this article.

    Is the #12 Prudence card the equivalent of the more traditionally understood Lovers card, or is the #13 card, Marriage, the Etteilla equivalent of the Lovers?

    Or is there another altogether?

    I think it's interesting that these two cards are sequential. As though prudence and marriage is the advice or warning, for lovers.

    Thank you


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  5. Thanks for reading! The image on the Prudence card is a variation on one version of the Hanged Man, namely, that which appeared in Court de Gebelin's essay on the tarot in 1781 and which existed in several historical tarot decks at that time, such as the Vieville of c. 1650 Paris, de Hautot in c. 1720 Rouen, and the "Belgian" tarot after that. Etteilla replaces the rope with a snake and changes the gender. Giving it the name "Prudence" was also de Gebelin's idea. You can read de Gebelin at, in French only. It is under "Planche V".

    Card 13 is indeed Etteilla's version of the Lovers. It resembles the Lovers card of the Vieville deck, etc., which you can view online at

    I had not thought of there being a connection between the two cards, 12 and 13. I know that the first 12 cards constituted for Etteilla one group, I forget what he called it, but more noble, and #13 starts another, less noble. But there may well be such a connection as you suggest. Etteilla in the 4th Cahier, 1785, speaks bitterly about his marriage to his "Xanthippe" (Socrates' wife, whom he called ""the hardest to get along with of all the women there are." according to Xenophon). They were married in 1763 and separated in 1767. He lost "all his heritage", he wrote, to her and other family members, and contemplated suicide. But instead, the "hautes sciences" were born (biographical information from Wicked Pack of Cards, pp. 77-79).

  6. Thank you Michael, for your detailed response.

    After I sent my original question I realized how I confused the Grand Etteilla Gypsy deck with the Etteilla Thoth deck. One associates Prudence with the Hanged Man and the other associates Prudence with the Lovers. So I apologize for my initial lack of understanding. I have a copy of both decks.

    Did Etteilla actually develop both of these decks? I am under the impression that he created the Grand Gypsy Tarot and then died that same year. How did the other varieties come to exist? (In his name)

    Thank you for your kindness in answering. Although I've been reading and studying for 39 years, learning about its evolution remains as fascinating to me as when I was a neophyte.


    I can read about these matters all day long.

  7. Thank you Michael, for your detailed response.

    After I sent my original question I realized how I confused the Grand Etteilla Gypsy deck with the Etteilla Thoth deck. One associates Prudence with the Hanged Man and the other associates Prudence with the Lovers. So I apologize for my initial lack of understanding. I have a copy of both decks.

    Did Etteilla actually develop both of these decks? I am under the impression that he created the Grand Gypsy Tarot and then died that same year. How did the other varieties come to exist? (In his name)

    Thank you for your kindness in answering. Although I've been reading and studying for 39 years, learning about its evolution remains as fascinating to me as when I was a neophyte.


    I can read about these matters all day long.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I certainly don't understand how these "replies" go. I wanted to make a correction in my reply, and I ended up deleting it. I guess you can't edit them after they are posted.

      Anyway, what I said, or meant to say, was that Etteilla himself only did one deck, in 1789, 2 years before he died in 1791. the one that corresponds to most of the black and white Etteilla reproductions that I posted (they come from the deck owned by Thierry Depaulis and reproduced in the book "Wicked Pack of Cards"). The "Etteilla Thoth", seems to be the one first done in 1870, which I call "Grand Etteilla III", although I am not sure. Many of its images (I don't recall how many) come from the illuminated 15th century "Nuremberg Chronicle". The lady with a looking glass is a conventional medieval image of Prudence. What makes it an Etteilla deck are the words along the sides of the cards and the general themes of the images.

  9. Thank you for confirming that there was only one genuine Etteilla deck. It was very confusing to me because there are a number of decks bearing his name. The only copy I have is the Grand Etteilla Gypsy Egyptian .

    Thank you for your help.


  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Please see my rewritten earlier comment. It repeats what you commented on but corrects one or two things. I myself have three Etteilla decks. One is the English-French 1969 "Grand Etteilla Egyptian Gypsies Tarot", put out by Grimaud. Another is the English-French "Grant Etteilla Egyptian Gypsies Tarot" put out later, probably after 2000, also Grimaud, The third is the "Tarot Egyptien Grand Jeu de Oracles des Dames, Methode d'Etteilla et du Livre de Thot", put out by Dusserre.

    As far as faithfulness to Etteilla, the 1969 Grimaud is the closest. The only thing not in Etteilla's deck, aside from the English translations, is the sun on card 1 (maybe one other thing, but I can't remember).

    The c. 2000 Grimaud has the same pictures, but has changed many of the keywords, I assume to fit the modern world.

    The Dusserre, in contrast, has changed the pictures but is quite faithful to Etteilla in its keywords (top and bottom). The words on the side are fairly faithful, too. The Dusserre booklet is well worth holding onto; it is a reprint, with translation, of parts of the c. 1840-1850 book that went with the "Grand Etteilla II". As an instruction book, it is more faithful to Etteilla and his immediate followers than just about anything else in print. But the "Grand Etteilla II" deck itself has not been put out for at least a hundred years, as far as I know.

  12. Dear Michael, you might like to update the links to my Etteilla cards - I had to move them here -
    Adam (Sumada)

  13. Dear Michael, you might like to update the links to my Etteilla cards - I had to move them here -
    Adam (Sumada)

  14. Hi Michael, thanks for sharing your knowledge on the etteilla tarot! I have found an image of the etteilla III prudence card with the title 'High Priestess' on it instead of 'Prudence'... is this a forgery? I can send it to you if you mail me?

  15. The Etteilla III Prudence card has on it a standing young lady holding a book in her right hand and a hand mirror in her left. If that is what you have, it is correct. The book and hand-mirror are traditional attributes of Prudence. If it is something else, tell me what is there. Is she standing or sitting, does she have anything on her head, what does she hold?

  16. It is exactly the same card as the etteilla III card above, with lady, book, mirror and snake. So this would mean that the Etteilla Prudence card matches up with the tarot high priestess and not the hanged man...??
    Anne-Marie (The netherlands)

    1. Yes, I think you're right. The Etteilla Prudence card, in all its versions, derives from the Hanged Man, in the sense that turning it upside down and considering the rope as a snake, you get a good image of Prudence: proceed with caution, because there are snakes in that grass. But in conception Prudence is closer to the High Priestess. Yet there are differences: the High Priestess embodies traditional wisdom and the experience of life, both of which inform her intuition. Prudence in the Etteilla cards, on the other hand, is young and inexperienced, even if she does, in the Etteilla II and III, have a book to consult. Looking at the card, I think you're supposed to think of all the teachings about Prudence. Look to the past and to the possibilities in the future (including snakes) for your present course. Investigate the facts, think it through, make sure your course aligns with your values. Know yourself (the mirror). and so on. It is a different card, even if the High Priestess is the closest fit. Some people also find Prudence elsewhere in the deck, such as the Hermit. And also the World. So instead of being absent from the traditional decks, maybe it's there in different ways in several cards.

    2. P.S. When I wrote this post, I had not yet had access to Etteilla's own writings on his virtue cards in his Third Cahier. So be sure to see

    3. Thanks for your answer! I am studying the 'evolution' of the tarot starting from the visconti-sforza, and am intrigued by the differences in the three etteilla decks. It's hard to find reliable information, so thank you again for your time and sharing your knowledge! Anne-Marie

    4. The Etteilla I was done in 1788 for Etteilla. The Etteilla II was done in 1838 by Simon Blocquel in Lisle. The Etteilla III is from around 1870, I forget exactly when, and is based on images in the Nuremburg Chronicle of 1491. If you look for the Etteilla Timeline - well, the later one by that name, on Aeclectic Tarpt Forum, you will find a complete account of all the numerous decks that developed from Etteilla, up to around 1900. Another good source is the book "A Wicked Pack of Cards". Tarot History Forum has the latest information, however, about the 1788 images. Use its search function for Etteilla 1788.